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Marine Casualty Investigation Board Warns About Dangers of Modifying Boats

7th April 2023
Fishing Vessel Anna Louise in MCIB Report. Photo from 2020 Survey
Fishing Vessel Anna Louise in MCIB Report. Photo from 2020 Survey Credit: via MCIB

Modifying vessels, including making changes to a vessel’s engine, without proper evaluation of the consequences, is very dangerous, the Marine Casualty Investigation Board has warned. It has urged the Minister for Transport to introduce rules for open commercial fishing boats, assign a minimum freeboard based on the boat size, and ensure that open boats have sufficient reserve buoyancy to stay afloat if swamped with sea water.

The MCIB Report is into the sinking of the 5.35 metre open fishing boat, Anna Louise, which was “on a routine fishing” trip to lift lobster pots in Bantry Bay. It says this was “a very serious marine casualty.”

The report says the fibreglass boat was operated by the owner’s brother (the Skipper), a qualified and experienced boat operator with valid certification. The Skipper had lifted two strings of lobster pots onboard with a total of ten pots and was retrieving the marker buoy when a wave came over the stern, flooding the boat. The Skipper tried to reach the bailing bucket, but a further wave swamped the boat, and the boat sank quickly. The Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB) floated free and was activated. The distress signal was received by Valentia Marine Rescue Sub-Centre (MRSC) who initiated rescue operations. Bantry inshore lifeboat was tasked as well as Castletownbere lifeboat and Rescue Helicopter R115. The Skipper swam ashore and made his way through fields to a house from where he called to advise he was safe and well. The rescue operations were terminated. The boat was later salvaged from 12 metres of water. There were no injuries and no pollution.

MCIB Report photo of Anna LouiseMCIB Report photo of Anna Louise

The weather on the date of the incident was a maximum of Force 4-5 on the Beaufort Scale.

Waves were of 1.5 metres to 2.5 metres,which is at the top of the allowable range for this type of boat, according to the report.

Modifications had been carried out to the boat, the MCIB report says, which had reduced the freeboard. “These modifications should have been presented, for approval, to the Surveyor who had issued the Code of Practice Certificate in accordance with CoP requirement. The original freeboard was considered small but there is no minimum freeboard specified in the CoP for open boats of this size.

“The boat was swamped by waves coming over the stern and filling the boat with sea water. The boat sank quickly as there was no reserve buoyancy when it was full of water. The boat freeboard had been reduced due to additional weights onboard making it more vulnerable to swamping.”

The Board makes a number of safety recommendations including that the Minister for Transport should issue a Marine Notice reminding owners of fishing vessels of the dangers associated with modifying vessels, including changes to a vessel’s engine, without proper evaluation of the consequences.

“The Minister for Transport should introduce rules for open commercial fishing boats < 15 m to assign a minimum freeboard based on the boat size and to ensure open boats have sufficient reserve buoyancy to allow the boat to stay afloat if swamped with sea water.

“The Minister for Transport should issue instructions to panel surveyors when inspecting open commercial fishing boats that do not have a Declaration of Conformity or CE plate showing the CE category and maximum design load, to require a full load test to ensure boat skippers know the maximum safe loads allowed onboard and the minimum freeboard allowed.

The full report is available on the MCIB website

Published in MCIB
Tom MacSweeney

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Tom MacSweeney

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Tom MacSweeney writes a weekly column for He presents the monthly programme Maritime Ireland on Podcast services and Irish radio stations.

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